Local riders barrel towards weekly jackpot

The only rain the Yampa Valley has seen in weeks had uncanny timing because it obviously knew when the Jackpot Barrel race was going run.

Huddled under her oil skin coat, Robin White recorded times, in her fleece jacket Wendy McKee announced the riders and those on horseback looked as though they were more prepared for a mid-November day rather than a summer evening.

The thick clothing worn by those in attendance didn't muffle the yells of encouragement or coaching at the weekly barrel race.

"Our numbers are a little down today, most likely because of the weather," said White, who is one of the race organizers. "But, it's still a pretty good showing all thing considered."

The Tuesday night tradition of barrel racing at the Moffat County Fairgrounds has roots all the way back to the 1960s, according to show organizers or so they believe.

The barrel race has been held for so long now that not even the show's organizers are sure when it originated.

The racers know where to get their arena time, though.

The time that the races are run at the outdoor arena is actually slotted for the roping club, but the space is donated by the roping club for the Jackpot barrel racers.

"Sometimes we have to plead with the ropers, or give them a wink to get the arena," said McKee, who is also a race organizer. "But, we haven't missed a Tuesday yet."

Jackpot Barrels is actually a race series, which starts at the beginning of May and will run through the end of August or until someone kicks them off, according to McKee.

Anyone with a horse and the $13 entry fee is allowed to race, and they are given the opportunity to win their money back, and possibly more. The race isn't titled Jackpot for nothing.

To keep things fair, a handicap is employed. A half-second and a second are added to a rider's time, and compared with set times in three different divisions.

If the handicap time is lower than the set time in a division, and the rider finishes first, the rider walks away with money.

The money awarded is usually around $30, but as much as $90 has been doled out in the past.

"The handicap is there so that a dominant rider doesn't come in every week and take the purse," White said. "The system is a little complicated, but it works well to give everyone a chance to win some money."

Points are kept throughout the series, and at the end of the year awards are given away to the highest point leaders. Unlike the monetary prizes that are awared at the weekly races, the year-end prize is usually something of rodeo significance, such as a horse blanket or jacket.

Monetary gain and year-end prizes aren't the real draw of Jackpot Barrels. Instead, it's the practice that brings riders in, and with the amount of young cowgirls at the race, it is understandable why Moffat County is the home of Little Britches World Champions and National High School Rodeo qualifiers.

"We get some older people out here, but it is mainly the younger girls who turnout," White said. "It is a terrific chance for girls to work their horse out once a week, get a little competition in and keep sharp for upcoming rodeos."

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